NORTH ANDOVER — Shawn Loiseau is a football player, not a philosopher.
So his gridiron philosophy is as straight forward as his line to the quarterback.
"I go into every single game believing I can make every single tackle," said the Merrimack College senior inside linebacker.
He may not make every single tackle, but sometimes it seems like he does.
Out of the 151 Division 2 teams in the country, nobody last fall had as many solo tackles (75) or solo tackles per game (7.5).
Loiseau was a second-team All-American last year and at last count was a first-teamer on four preseason teams.
Warrior coach John Perry said, "He lives up to the billing. When you watch him play, he dominates. When the St. Anselm coach, Pat Murphy, walked off the field he said, 'No. 10, he's the league MVP, I don't care what anybody says.'"
That was last fall after arguably the greatest game ever turned in by a Warrior defender in the 16-year history of the program.
Loiseau had 10 solo tackles, 8 assists, 3 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and three quarterback hurries.
Although he's 6-1, 245 pounds and set the program record with a 635 pound dead lift, he says his success is much more mental than physical.
"I might not be the strongest, I might not be the fastest, I might not be the smartest, but not one guy will outwork me for 60 minutes," promised the Shrewsbury native.
Perry recalls a play against Stonehill which illustrates that point.
"The kid was an All-American punt returner," began Perry. "Shawn is safety man on the punt return team. This kid is a track star. Shawn didn't have the angle. He stripped the ball at the 6 and we recovered.
"It's just a testament to his motor. He was not going to let this kid score. It was just an awesome play. It was one of the top five I've ever seen in my (19-year) coaching career."
Plays like that have earned him all the accolades.
"I work really hard every day throughout the year to play at the highest level I can," said Loiseau, who set the school single-season tackle record as a sophomore and topped it last year. "But it's humbling."
Few teams in the country can match Merrimack's defensive tandem of Loiseau and Tony Johnson, the reigning NE-10 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
But despite their brilliance, the defense overall was weak (34.7 ppg) and the Warriors slipped from 7-3 NE-10 tri-champions to 4-6 last fall.
It was a tumultuous offseason as former Methuen High coach Pat Graham was named the new defensive coordinator in the spring but it didn't work out and he was gone before summer practice even began.
Linebackers coach Mike Gennetti was quickly promoted. Loiseau won't use the turnover as an excuse.
"To me, it's not that tough," said Loiseau, the winner of the 2010 Zabilski Award as the New England Division 2-3 defensive MVP. "You couldn't ask for a better (coordinator) than we have now. Coach Gennetti has been my linebackers coach. He's a great coach. He really gets along well with the guys. He knows how to teach football."
Loiseau knows to get to the top there are going to be some bumps along the way.
He encountered a major one in high school when he was involved in fight which put his senior season in jeopardy. Loiseau needed 28 stitches, his father told the Shrewsbury Chronicle at the time, while the other teen was admitted to the hospital with a serious head injury.
"That was tough," he said. "It was tough on me and my family. We found a way through it. I ended up being found not guilty and the charges were dismissed."
He put the incident behind him and led Shrewsbury High to its first perfect season in 61 years. Surprise, surprise, he set the school record for tackles.
He would like the Warriors to make a little history of their own.
"I was talking to the team before camp even started," said the tri-captain. "I said the No. 1 goal is a national championship and whoever doesn't believe it shouldn't even be on the team."
A national title, it's just another goal he plans to tackle head on.
Oversight fuels linebacker
Shawn Loiseau's dream was to earn a scholarship. UNH, UMass and Delaware took a close look but ultimately didn't offer.
The way things worked out, they have to be kicking themselves.
"They didn't think I was good enough. That's basically why I have a chip on my shoulder," he said.
One UNH coach certainly thought the Shrewsbury High star was scholarship material.
"I pushed for him," said John Perry, then a Wildcat assistant who soon after became Merrimack's head coach. "I had him as a scholarship guy. We were really close to offering."
He's been good enough that NFL scouts have come by a couple times. If pro football doesn't work out, the criminology major with the 2.9 GPA hopes to become a state trooper.
"You don't want to be pulled over by him!" said Perry with a laugh.